The Last Cruise

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 24 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

Just about anything that could happen on a cruise happened in this book which seemed to be too much for the plot and somewhat far fetched.  However I enjoyed the way the characters were intertwined as they encountered each other on the cruise.  I read the ending three times trying to make sense out of what could have happened and I’m still not sure.  This book will either make readers pleased or angry with the ending.
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Good storytelling and three strong characters made this a winner for me.  Christine, Miriam and Mick are all in different stages of life and positions on the cruise ship Isabella.  Christine is a farmer from Maine traveling with her friend Valerie, a journalist looking into working conditions across a variety of industries.  Miriam plays violin in a long established string quartet on board to play for the owners; she's divorced from another member of the group.  Mick is a chef, who landed on this cruise because the original chef had to drop out. How they cope when things go very bad= first the crew revolts and then the ship loses power- is at the heart of this tale.  These three do well, work with others, and keep it together, unlike some others but it's not easy.  This is well written and engaging.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  This was especially interesting because I've been on cruise ships but you don't need to have sailed to enjoy.  Two thumbs up!
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Did not enjoy this book at all. Kept reading it hoping it would get better & it did near the end but the ending was a great disappointment.
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I like Kate Christensen's books but this was not my favorite. Is it possible to like characters but not the story they're in? Well, that's what happened here. The individual story lines were interesting but the overall story was just okay. It did not help that I read so slowly and would have to reread a bit each time to remember what was happening with each person.
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3.5 stars rounded up.

If you have no desire at all to ever embark on a cruise ship, this book will reaffirm that notion.  If you have cruised and want to go again, you may change your mind after reading this book.  I am firmly in the first category since I suffer from motion sickness.  And now I also suffer from fear of being stranded in the middle of the ocean with no power, no crew, diminishing food supply, and a chance of rain.  For these passengers on the final voyage of The Isabella, at least there was plenty of wine and whiskey.

The Isabella is being decommissioned or whatever you call it, and this one last voyage from California to Hawaii will be reminiscent of the good old days, in both music and food.  We get to know the musical quartet, from Israel, and one of the chefs, Hungarian, plus a couple of the passengers, Valerie and Christine.  The crew has discovered that they're  all being fired by the cruiseline once in Hawaii, and it's  not going over well.  Valerie is there to write about the dynamics of a crew made up of diverse cultures and their treatment by corporate, and then her story turns into something much larger in scale when the crew quits.  Christine is the light of their cruiseship lives, but she doesn't know if her own life, her marriage to a farmer, is what she wants.

So much going on here yet I had no problem keeping up with all the names and places.  The ending might make you angry, sad, content or confused, depending on how you take it.  My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley.
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This was so much more than I thought it would be. Christine is a married Maine farmer who joins her friend, a journalist doing a story about the workers of the cruise industry. Christine plans to enjoy this final cruise on the once stunning Queen Isabella. 1950's style luxury, fine dining and jazz. But it turns out to be anything but wonderful. A mind blowing deep look into the cruise industry and what actually happens behind the scenes. An eyes wide open look and it's scary. This isn't a remake of the Titanic. It's so much more than that. I liked so many things about several chatacters. Their stories, their histories. Jewish history and culture. A hauntingly deep story. Scary and will make you think twice about booking that cruise.
Dawn Ruby
BookGypsy
Novels N Latte
Book Blog
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Going on a vacation cruise? Be sure to attend the lifeboat drill, because you never know. And wait until you return home to read Kate Christensen’s new novel “The Last Cruise,’’ because you don’t want to know.
Certainly, the 400-plus passengers and crew aboard the luxury liner Queen Isabella for her final voyage before the salvage yard are looking forward to their retro Fifties cruise to Hawaii. Fine dining, classic cocktails, sophisticated entertainment. Yes to smoking and dancing, no to kids and cell phones. 
Christine Thorne, a former journalist, is enjoying a getaway from her Maine farm and husband, some time spent with her reporter friend Valerie. Down in the galley, Mick Szabo, a Hungarian sous-chef, is overseeing the welcoming buffet luau and hoping he doesn’t have to reprimand his assistant Consuelo for insubordination. Miriam Koslow, an Israeli violinist with the venerable Sabra Quartet, is dealing with her complaining ex-husband Isaac, the violist, while nursing her longtime crush on Sasha, the other violinist and a recent widower.
Talking to Valerie on the first night, Christine likens the nostalgic vibe to a vintage BBC drama only to have Valerie, who is writing a book on poorly paid workers in the global economy, remind her the staff is not on vacation. “I know that,’’ Christine says.
What she doesn’t know is that Cabaret Cruise Lines has told the crew they’re all losing their jobs once this trip concludes, and mutiny is in the air. What Mick doesn’t know is that a fire will soon cause them to lose power and their refrigerators, and that Consuelo will lead a strike. What Miriam doesn’t know that the virulent illness sweeping the ship will affect the quartet. And no one is aware that Mother Nature has tired of calm seas and is kicking up a massive storm on the horizon.
So “Upstairs, Downstairs’’ meets “The Poseidon Adventure,’’ except Christensen is too good a writer to sink into clichés. Her characters are interesting and edgy, her writing is wry and perceptive. “The Last Cruise’’ is both a subversive comedy of manners and literary thrill ride. As calamity follows disaster, you sympathize with some of the passengers and crew members as they are challenged by events, and you shake your head at others’ craven behavior. You are so, so grateful you are not aboard the Queen Isabella. You will be caught up short by the ending. And you will never, ever skip a lifeboat drill. (Knopf Doubleday, $26.95, July 10).
Minneapolis Star Tribune 6/03/18
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I loved this book. There is great character development, and once the crisis begins, there is no longer a barrier between guests and crew.  An examination of what life was in mid 2oth century and what life is now. There is lots of intrigue, mystery and a shocking ending.
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Traveling is a strange experience. Travelers are between places. They’re in a pause. Their lives will begin again when they get to where they’re going. At least, it feels that way when you’re a traveler. For the people who work in airports, hotels, and on cruise ships, however, this is their day job. Nothing has paused for them. In The Last Cruise, by Kate Christensen, we get to see people who’ve put their lives on pause for a little while and people who are working as hard as they can. And then we get to see what happens when they’re thrown together when everything goes wrong and all the boundaries between passenger and employee break down.

Christine arrives at the Queen Isabella at the invitation of her friend, who plans to interview the staff for a book about the “new economy” on the ship’s last voyage from Long Beach, California, to Hawaii. She’s prepared to have a good time and not think about the fact that her husband wants children and she doesn’t. On the same day, Mick shows up reluctantly for a gig as a sous chef. It’s okay money, but he doesn’t want to be away from his lover in Paris, even for two weeks. Also on the same day, Miriam and the other three members of the Sabra String Quartet (made up of Israeli veterans of the Six Day War) board the Isabella at the request of the owner’s wife.

By bouncing between these three characters, we see different slices of life on board a cruise ship. Seeing their perspectives made me think hard about how oblivious we passengers can be to what’s going on behind the scenes. Of course, the employees work hard to make things smooth for us travelers, but it’s startling to see how much labor it takes to maintain the illusion. Then things get really interesting. Half the crew walks off the job to protest their low wages. The engine catches fire and the the ship loses power. Oh, and norovirus breaks out. The illusion of a floating resort completely shatters and the three protagonists have to decide what they’re going to do. Do they compromise? Do they work? Do they hold out hope for rescue?

The only thing I can say about the ending is really a warning. It will devastate you. I finished it a couple of hours ago and I still feel stunned. I’m not sure if I liked the ending or not, but I certainly enjoyed the ride—a lot more than the passengers and staff of the Queen Isabella, that’s for sure. Aside from my mixed feelings about the ending, I enjoyed this book a lot. I liked the way it showed me the pause between here and there that comes with traveling, took me behind the scenes on a cruise ship, and gave me some beautiful scenes in which everyone came together in spite of the circumstances.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration. It will be released 10 July 2018.
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This one comes out in July so add it to your TO READ list! The Last Cruise by Kate Christensen caught my attention right away. It’s about a cruise so as someone who loves to cruise and travel, I knew I’d have to read it.

While not a historical novel, the story does revolve around a 1950’s ocean liner and includes classic food from the 50s plus no wifi, tv, you know, like it was in the olden days.

Here’s the plot:

The 1950s vintage ocean liner Queen Isabella is making her final voyage before heading to the scrapyard. For the guests on board, among them Christine Thorne, a former journalist turned Maine farmer, it’s a chance to experience the bygone mid-20th century era of decadent luxury cruising, complete with fine dining, classic highballs, string quartets, and sophisticated jazz. Smoking is allowed but not cell phones–or children, for that matter. The Isabella sets sail from Long Beach, CA into calm seas on a two-week retro cruise to Hawaii and back.

But this is the second decade of an uncertain new millennium, not the sunny, heedless fifties, and certain disquieting signs of strife and malfunction above and below decks intrude on the festivities. Down in the main galley, Mick Szabo, a battle-weary Hungarian executive sous-chef, watches escalating tensions among the crew. Meanwhile, Miriam Koslow, an elderly Israeli violinist with the Sabra Quartet, becomes increasingly aware of the age-related vulnerabilities of the ship herself and the cynical corners cut by the cruise ship company, Cabaret.

When a time of crisis begins, Christine, Mick, and Miriam find themselves facing the unknown together in an unexpected and startling test of their characters.

I am absolutely excited to start reading this book. I love the idea of the story and the vintage cruise ship!
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This is the first book I've read by Kate Christensen.  The Queen Isabella is a vintage ocean liner that is about to be retired after one last cruise.  The book focuses on three of the characters on the cruise.  Christine a former journalist turned Maine farmer who is accompanying one of her friends on the cruise,  Mick a Hungarian sous-chef, and Miriam an Israeli violinist.  The start of the book was a little slow, and I didn't really like the characters at first (particularly Mick).  However, as the book went on and the characters developed I really liked them and was rooting for them.  All along I was expecting one outcome, until close to the end when it was plain to see that wouldn't be happening.  All in all, this was a good book and I look forward to future books written by Kate Christensen.  I received the book free from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This was a surprisingly good novel. I felt very engaged with the characters, and while I kept waiting for some crazy twist to happen, it never really did. There are many characters in this adventurous novel, and not one felt more or less important or necessary than another. 
It's the last cruise for the elegant Queen Isabella and the crew and guests assembled are a fascinating and diverse group, from a quartet of elderly Israeli string players, to a Hungarian chef desperate to feel some success and control in his life. All sorts of people that would normally never encounter one another in "real life" are hurled together by the events of the ship's last trip from California to Hawaii. A really fun book! The ending was stunning.
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Some people love cruises with absolute passion. They can think of no greater vacation than sailing the seas, enjoying all of the creature comforts of the ship (including endless parades of food), and exploring the different ports of call. I have many friends and family members who would take a cruise as often as possible if cost and time were not an issue.

I've never been on a cruise, and to be honest, I've stayed away because of all of the horror stories I've seen in the media—the loss of power and water, the fires, the tipping over, the massively contagious viruses that spread among passengers and crew, and pirates. I know these things don't happen often (although some seem to happen more frequently), but I don't know if I like people enough to be stuck with them in the middle of the ocean.

While Kate Christensen's The Last Cruise isn't going to spur crowds of people to immediately book a cruise, it's more than a litany of things that could go wrong at sea.

The Queen Isabella is a vintage ocean liner from the 1950s which is going to make one more voyage, from Long Beach, California to Hawaii, before it is retired from service and sent to the salvage yard. The cruise ship company has decided to make this trip a nostalgic one—passengers will enjoy "old-fashioned" food like Steak Diane and Baked Alaska, as well as classic cocktails and vintage music. Oh, and there won't be wi-fi on the cruise, either.

The cruise couldn't have come at a better time for Christine Thorne. She left her farm home (and her farmer husband) back in Maine to meet her old friend for a vacation. Christine hopes to settle her mind while on the cruise, and determine whether the life that drew her away from New York City and a potential career in journalism years ago is still what she wants, or if she needs to start anew.

Miriam Koslow is an Israeli violinist who, along with her ex-husband, is part of a long-standing quartet which plays on many of the cruises run by the company. The owners of the ship are also the benefactors of the quartet. This last cruise leads Miriam to contemplation of her own mortality and that of her fellow musicians, and leads her to realize she needs to seize what she wants for the rest of her life, no matter the consequences.

Mick Szabo, one of the executive sous-chefs, is only on the cruise because he's filling in at the last minute for someone else. Working for a temperamental, well-known chef puts him on edge, but his skills are top-notch, and he's determined to prove himself worthy of a career beyond cooking on cruise ships. He's unprepared, however, for how tensions among the crew will affect the job he has to do.

Suddenly, everything changes, and the passengers and crew of the Queen Isabella find themselves facing more than where they'll sunbathe that day, what outfit they'll wear to dinner, or how to deal with the insubordination of an employee. They'll have to deal with issues of health and safety, whether there will be enough food and water, and what to do in case a storm comes their way. These crises will test everyone's mettle, bring long-hidden issues to the forefront, and put people in situations they weren't prepared to face.

Much of what occurs in The Last Cruise is unsurprising, and you can see it coming nearly from the beginning of the book. But Christensen still draws you into the story, and creates tremendously evocative images so you can almost smell and taste the food, hear the music, and see the nostalgic glamour around you. Not all of the characters are likable, but you become invested in their stories, and you wonder what will happen to them.

While the events that occur in the book aren't far-fetched if you've seen any news stories about cruise ships, but I felt like there was just too much happening, one thing after another. It almost became too melodramatic—there was a brief moment where I was expecting locusts or frogs to come next. I also thought the villains in the book were too much of a caricature—I would have liked something more than the greedy, insensitive tycoon.

Even with the things I didn't like, I still found The Last Cruise to be a good story. I wouldn't recommend you bring it with you on a cruise ship, however!

NetGalley and Doubleday Books provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!
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The Last Cruise is okay. The plot is a little show, characters were interesting and it was an enjoyable read. I would recommend to others to read
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I LOVED this book!  It is quite a page-turner, even with extensive descriptions of place and setting.  We follow various people through a final cruise of the classic ship the ISABELLA, as it cruises from LA to Hawaii.  A chef who aspires to have his own restaurant, one member of a classic string quartet, and two friends, a farmer's wife and a journalist hoping to reconnect, all come together on an unforgettable voyage.  All seems well, until part of the crew decides to strike, a mysterious fire cripples the ship, and the ever-present norovirus makes an appearance.  Then the plot becomes a blend of THE PERFECT STORM and LORD OF THE FLIES.  Quite a read, with an unexpected shocker of an ending!
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An old cruise ship on it’s last voyage, with the theme of recalling the 1950s, is at the base of this story. There are a couple of second chance romances and a romance that really doesn’t have a chance at all. 
I enjoyed seeing all of the detail of running a kitchen on a cruise ship. As with all kitchens there is a chain of command with the executive chef at the top, and as in many large kitchens the executive chef is a demanding person who surrounds himself with drama.
A string quartet is on board to serenade the patrons with beautiful music, including one piece written by the wife of the ship’s owner. It is a deeply personal piece about the Israeli Six Days War, which two of the musicians fought in. One couple in the quartet have been divorced for 20 years but still live together, although one of them years for another person in the quartet. They’ve all known each other for 50 years.
There is an Upstairs Downstairs feel to the story with the wealthy passengers living the life of luxury above deck and the workers living difficult lives below deck. I found this very interesting. One passenger, the wife of a Maine farmer, is smitten with one of the kitchen crew, overlooking the fact that one is married and the other is forbidden to have a relationship with a passenger.
The ending is a bit of a muddle for me. How can a book have a cliff hanger but an HEA at the same time? The cliff hanger is really the reader’s opportunity to put his or her own perspective on what has happened on the ship and what may happen next. Every disaster that could befall a ship at sea happens here – illness, death, fire, storm, crew rebellion. I wouldn’t suggest this for a book to read while on a cruise, that’s for sure. But as an exciting story of human nature, love at all ages, and in the face of insurmountable difficulties, this book definitely fits the bill.
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A chance for a Maine farmer's wife to enjoy a luxury cruise with a travel writer friend turns into the worst vacation possible or does it?
Christine really needs to get away for a bit and what better way than the final voyage of a luxury cruise ship going from L.A. to Hawaii. Name all of your vacation fears and they happen on this trip - disgruntled employees about to be fired, bad weather, disease, fire.  The mainstay of this story is the difference between the haves (wealthy patrons of the arts and other travelers) and the have-nots (the crew and those who have been hired to perform or write about the trip).  The other backstory is about finding a second chance for love and happiness.  If any good can come out of all this seagoing drama it is in the truth that emerges after the hardship really begins and the way the main characters see themselves and their lives after.  Don't read this if you have booked a cruise anywhere! My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.
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I did not enjoy this book. I loved the concept but the writing style was clunky and amateurish. Way too many descriptors and it enough content.
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I really liked this book a lot, but the end made me super mad. Which is a good thing! Feeling things about books is kind of the point, right? The Last Cruise chronicles the experiences of three different groups aboard a vintage ship taking - you guessed it - its last cruise. This would be a good poolside book if you're into suspense and drama, but I might not suggest taking it on a boat.
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